When scientists ‘cry wolf’ on Covid-19 – Paul O’Sullivan

For the second time in 24 hours, I’m hearing a highly influential person in ethics and law complain bitterly about the travel ban of 40 countries that have just reduced South Africa to ‘virtual’ pariah status, further crippling our travel and accommodation industry. Those tourism-related businesses that were looking to the festive season to recover now face going under. Corruption buster Paul O’ Sullivan is in a froth over how our brilliant scientists discovering a new, (probably globally widespread), Covid-19 variant has impacted on the economic and familial lives of tens of thousands of South Africans. A bio-ethicist friend of mine is helping host a hybrid international bio-ethics conference in Stellenbosch starting tomorrow, (Tuesday), with fly-in delegates suddenly cancelling hand over fist. These are but two canaries in the coal mine. Cyril is deeply unhappy. Were our scientists responsible  or premature in shouting out what they discovered? Is it a variant ‘of concern’ or merely ‘of interest? That’s the real question.– Chris Bateman

How not to handle the discovery of a new variant

By Paul O’Sullivan*

  1. Find it.  
  2. Don’t investigate it fully. 
  3. Tell the world it could be deadly, but it might not be … we’ll only know in a few weeks. 
  4. Allow scientists to dictate the media policy regarding Covid-19 research. 

The doors of South Africa are slamming shut by the hour, just because we (health department) failed to put a proper communications policy in place. 

By next week, SA will be in total isolation again. Of course, we’ll still be getting another kind of undocumented ‘tourist’ crossing the Kruger Park and Limpopo River by foot, because the borders remain porous to people, stolen cars, stolen and counterfeit goods.

In the last 24 hours, more than 40 countries issued new directives against SA, no doubt prompted by behind-the-scenes calls from people in London, jealous of our exceptional climate. 

Families are in distress and loved ones will not spend their Christmas together for the second time in two years. 

While it is important to share scientific findings with the WHO, seeing a foreign news reader stating “Killer Covid bug found in South Africa” is not going to help our already fragile tourism economy that employs tens of thousands of people and will now be back on its knees. 

We cannot change history but someone needs to accept responsibility for the reckless destruction of so many jobs. 

With the complete mess of requiring unabridged birth certificates and affidavits for children, the Delta variant, the July 2020 attempted insurrection and now the Omicron variant, more hotel owners will go bankrupt and thousands in the tourism industry will go hungry this Christmas.

My family of many children were due to arrive in South Africa for a fabulous reunion from Europe and now all the plans must be cancelled, which includes hotels, flights, car rental, local restaurant and shopping trips. 

I must leave the country if I want to see my children and spend Christmas in a cold and wet foreign land.

The expression from the Jaws movie franchise, “Just as you thought it was safe to go back in the water” comes to mind. 

To say I am very disappointed in the way the discovery of this new variant has been mishandled, would be a gross understatement. 

I sincerely hope someone will be held accountable for the reckless handling of this situation, instead of blaming civil servants in London.

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